At Montclair State, you can call someone racist, but you can’t call someone fat

By Art Gallagher

Last September Steve Lonegan addressed a group at Montclair State University.  During his presentation, a fat guy asked Lonegan about his famous 2006 billboard controversy.  In case you forgot, Lonegan gained widespread press coverage in 06 for asking McDonalds to remove a billboard written in Spanish from a Bogota roadside.  Lonegan was mayor of Bogota at the time.

The fat Montclair State student proceeded to heckle Lonegan, calling him a racist and a shameful American fascist.  Fatboy was escorted from the meeting after he refused to shut up.  The incident was captured on video and posted to youtube where as of this writing it has only 510 views. (UPDATE: The fatboy youtube has been set to private)

Evidently fatboy has a fat girl friend. It’s not clear from the video who the girlfriend is, but Joseph Aziz, a graduate student at Montclair got himself into hot water for posting a comment on Youtube that the woman’s legs look like “a pair of bleached hams.”   Someone complained to the university administration, according to a surviving reporter at the Star Ledger,  They forbade Aziz from having any contact with the fatgirl or from posting her name anywhere on the Internet.  MoreMonmouthMusings was going to ask Lonegan if the girl was really fat, but we figured he wouldn’t know.

Aziz later joked about the incident and the fat girl in a facebook group.  He said he thought the facebook group was private.  Someone sent Aziz’s comments to the Montclair University Internet Police and Aziz was suspended from the university for a year.   Karen Pennington, Montclair’s vice president of student development, campus life and manners, cited New Jersery’s Anti-Bullying Law as justification for Aziz’s suspension and for denying his appeal of the suspension.  Aziz says the suspension puts his future career as a microbiologists at risk.

MMM has been told that the fatboy who called Lonegan a racist and a shameful American facist while disrupting the event received no disciplinary consequences from the Montclair State administration.

Neither fatboy nor Aziz should have been disciplined by the University.  Their friends and families should tell them they were being assholes. The only fascists in this sordid story are the administrators at Montclair who are abusing their power to forward a polictical agenda.

Posted: January 16th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Art Gallagher | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Not always as it seems…

Another side to the new anti-bullying law


By Dan Jacobson, also published in the September 9 edition of the triCityNews

I just can’t help myself.

When there’s an angle to a controversy that no one else will touch, I’ve got to reach out and grab it with both hands.

I just can’t stand it when a media horde goes off hell bent in one direction and misses a big part of a story. Add in a scrum of politicians riding the wave for their own advantage, and I get sucked in that much more.

I just call it like I see it. That’s what I’ve always done as a Publisher. It’s what I’m doing now as an Independent candidate for the State Assembly.

So let’s get the controversy going with the state’s new anti-bullying law, which took effect in our schools on September 1.

Passed overwhelmingly by the state legislature and signed by the Governor, the law is the toughest in the nation to stop bullying. Make no mistake. This is a huge problem.

It’s no longer some bullies in a schoolyard. With Facebook pages, websites and texting, bullying has moved to cyberspace. You could have dozens, if not hundreds, of kids tormenting another child. It’s sick.

So anti-bullying advocates joined with Garden State Equality – the state’s leading gay and lesbian civil rights organization – to get the new law passed. Given that this paper is a big supporter of Garden State Equality, and that the media reports were all glowing, the anti-bullying law sure sounded like a no brainer to me, even if I didn’t know all the details.

Meanwhile, some right-wing Republicans were expressing opposition – I assumed because Garden State Equality was in favor. What a bunch of sick bigots, I thought.

Then a couple weeks ago, I was talking with powerful Republican blogger Art Gallagher of Highlands. Art and I share a libertarian streak on economics, and often agree on policy. As I’m leaving, he says that the anti-bullying law will be a costly mess to implement, and school districts are up in arms over it. An agitated Gallagher claimed it’s a complete overreaction to the problem.

I dismissed his comments as the rantings of a red neck Republican.

Five days later, the New York Times – of all newspapers – runs a front page story reporting that New Jersey schools are struggling with the costs and burdens of implementing the law!

I was shocked.

“I think this has gone well overboard,” Richard G. Bozza, executive director of the New Jersey Association of School Administrators told the Times. “Now we have to police the community 24 hours a day. Where are the people and the resources to do this?”

The Times article stated that while many parents and educators welcome the new law, others say it “reaches much too far, and complain that they have been given no additional resources to meet its mandates.”

Of course, when all the politicians got up at the press conferences to brag about passing the anti-bullying law, no one – including the mainstream media – told us the other side of the story. Specifically, that the state was providing no money to local school districts to implement it.

Hey, it’s easy to be a hero when someone else is picking up the tab.

And if we can’t get the full story on the anti-bullying law, imagine how screwed we get on legislation with much less noble purposes. Unfortunately, no politician was willing to expose themselves politically as having reservations on the anti-bullying law. It’s like questioning Mom and Apple Pie.

Of course, the media is too dumb to pick up on the concerns, with the exceptions of the New York Times after the fact and local Republican blogger Art Gallagher, a most improbable combination indeed. (Check out the Times article on-line entitled “Bullying Law Puts New Jersey Schools on Spot” on August 30.)

Let me be clear: I still believe the anti-bullying law is a good thing. There’s a broad public benefit – a real chance to incorporate an ethic against bullying into our culture. This is not a bullshit piece of legislation. But there should have been an honest effort to pay for it. That would have exposed the bill to more rigorous analysis, and increased the chances that any parts not cost-beneficial would have been dropped. And it would not have left local school districts, already burdened with budget cuts, to pay the tab.

Before the New York Times article, I would have said I’m for the anti-bullying law, based on who was advocating for it, as well as the severity of the problem it attacks. As one sponsor recently said, “How could anyone be against this?”

But this is a great example of how not everything is exactly what it seems in government. Look, I’d rather not go down to Trenton and be the crank who always votes no on politically popular legislation that everyone else supports.

Yet I can see that happening. I absolutely refuse to sit there and lie with a straight face. If I see bill after bill come by me to make politicians heroes – while handing the tab to someone else to pay – I’d probably start voting no on every one. 

Don’t know if I’d have been at that stage with the anti-bullying law. At the least, I would have offered amendments on ways to pay for it – and get the legislature on record as literally passing the buck. Maybe doing that enough times on enough bills would get the media to take notice.

Not taking responsibility to pay for what we spend has got to stop, no matter how noble the cause. It’s bullshit. If something like the anti-bullying law is that important – and it is – then give the local school districts the money to pay for it. But perhaps that would have doomed the law. How quaint. How hypocritical.

Bleeding heart liberals and red neck Republicans can all unite on what I’m saying. After all, not taking fiscal responsibility is what causes taxes to go up. And when the money inevitably runs out, it’s the truly vulnerable who always get screwed — they don’t have the votes, the campaign contributions or the media clout to protect themselves.

So remember this column the next time you see politicians doing what they do best: looking like heroes at a press conference.

Because there’s likely another side to the story.

Posted: September 8th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Dan Jacobson | Tags: , , | 4 Comments »